If past is truly prologue, then 2013 will be the year that enterprise mobility kicks into high gear.
But the challenge facing most CIOs is not to support one, or all, of the various mobile platforms on the market, but how to integrate them into existing data infrastructure. In an age of flattened network fabrics, pooled virtual resources and the cloud, the last thing anyone needs is a completely isolated data environment accessible by select client devices.
According to Juniper Research, smartphone and tablet use in the office is expected to double over the next year, which naturally has led to much hand wringing over data and application security. For the most part, however, mobile infrastructure can be outfitted with top-notch firewall and data protection tools just like any other system. The bigger challenge will be to ensure that the data available to the office desktop can be accessed across any and all devices that employees bring to the table.
Part of this equation is the user interface, and there's been no shortage of desktop virtualization platforms incorporating mobile access to their enterprise editions, giving users roughly the same experience across multiple clients. But what about internal infrastructure? What needs to be done to servers, storage and networking to ensure data can be retrieved and shared across the entire data ecosystem?
Here, the situation is a bit muddled. While it is certainly possible for mobile devices to access corporate data and applications inside the firewall, this may not be enough to provide a suitable experience for mobile users. Citrix and NetApp are working to smooth out some of these rough edges by bolstering the enterprise's ability to support mobile file sharing and other advanced applications. The companies have devised a reference architecture using the Citrix ShareFile and StorageZones tools on top of NetApp's FAS and V-Series storage systems, tied together with the Data Ontap storage OS. The goal is to allow data to be shared across the cloud while maintaining compliance and regulatory parameters regardless of how it is accessed.
The cloud is likely to emerge as a key component in the wired/wireless integration process, if only because it provides a highly dynamic infrastructure on which to build and deploy new data environments. Dell seemed to have that in mind way back in April when it purchased virtualization management firm Wyse, having just come out with Wyse Cloud Client Manager (CCM). The platform is designed to provide a single management plane for mobile devices, including the firm's own thin- and zero-client systems. It also provides a self-service portal that takes some of the management burden off of IT, as well as both mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) functions — all without adding additional hardware or software to on-premises infrastructure.
In a way, the mobility challenge is merely an extension of the unified communications movement, which seeks to bring data, telecom and other services under one roof. And that provides a unique opportunity for nascent UCaaS providers to add real value to enterprise infrastructure, according to Tech Target's Gina Narcisi. Hosted service models are generally more flexible than those coming from static infrastructure, which gives enterprise greater leverage when it comes to evolving and adapting platforms to more varied client devices. On the downside, UCaaS will probably require significant bandwidth in order to support data-intensive applications like wide-area video services.
The ultimate goal of mobility is not simply to untether workers from their desktops, but to provide them with optimal data accessibility regardless of where they are or what device they are using. In that way, enterprise infrastructure will have to evolve across the board — in-house, on the cloud and over the air — if we are to realize the maximum benefits that all these technologies offer.
It's the difference between acceptable performance and optimal performance.